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In sinking vessel probe: Senate committee indicts NPA

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By Ethel A Tweh

The Chair for the Senate Committee on Defense, Security, Intelligence, and Veterans Affairs, Senator Stephen J.H. Zargo, blames the Management of the National Port Authority for poorly handling circumstances surrounding the sinking of the vessel Niko Ivanka in Liberian waters on July 17, 2021, leaving about a dozen persons drowned, including eight staff of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Monrovia Office.

The Liberia Maritime Authority in collaboration with Liberia National Cost Guard rescued about 11 persons, including the two Chinese captains that led the voyage. 

But the committee, which conducted its own investigation, says the NPA “blundered and didn’t do its job well.”

Its chair, Senator Zargo explains the vessel, which Liberia’s Maritime Commissioner Lenn Eugene Nagbe said was never registered or authorized to sail, did not have an Automatic Information System (AIS) to ensure tracking in case of distress, and that the NPA itself never had a record of people onboard.

Presenting findings to the Senate during a session in the chamber on Tuesday, August 17, Zargo lauded the Defense committee for a job well done, noting that through its intervention they were able to rescue some people that were onboard the vessel.

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He quotes the Minister of Defense Daniel Ziankan as saying it was difficult for them to locate the vessel during the rescue mission due to lack of an Automatic Information System.

He says if it wasn’t the invention of the Army thru the National Coast Guard, the situation would have been worse.

“We need to empower the Defense team because they have been doing a great job; a lot of people come through our water because our water is not policed”, Sen. Zargo notes. 

He reveals that as a result of the disaster, Maryland and Sinoe counties in the southeast where the vessel was headed when it sank about six (6) nautical miles off the coast of Marshall City in Margibi County, are experiencing a hike in prices of commodities because vessels that usually transport goods to both counties are currently halted by the government in Monrovia, in the wake of an ongoing investigation by the Liberia Maritime Authority.

Zargo details that during the investigation, the Maritime Boss didn’t turn out on grounds that he (Commissioner Nagbe) received the communication late, while the Managing Director of the National Port Authority Bill Tweahway had little or no knowledge of the vessel or how many persons were on board.

However, the NPA management last week announced the suspension of the Pier Supervisor at the Freeport of Monrovia George D. McGill for allegedly authorizing the sailed of the vessel. The NPA said Mr. McGill has been turned over to the Ministry of Justice for further interrogation.

“George D. McGill is the Pier Supervisor at the Port of Monrovia, he, without approval and notification of the management, allowed the sailing of the wrecked vessel. And so the NPA constituted an internal committee and the committee has established that he did that without the approval of the NPA”, said the director of public affairs at the NPA, Malcolm Scott in a news conference last Wednesday.

On July 19, the Liberia Maritime Authority announced that at least 15 passengers were missing and 11 others rescued from the sinking vessel in Liberian coastal waters.

Neither the Maritime Authority nor the NPA management seems willing to accept responsibility for the disaster that led to the loss of lives and indefinite suspension of the 2021 West African Senior School Certificate Exam by the WAEC Monrovia Office.https://thenewdawnliberia.com/bodies-recovered-from-sinking-vessel/ Editing by Jonathan Browne

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